Schools are goldmines of “lessons learned” for evaluators since schools have been immersed in (drowning in?) data since 2001’s No Child Left Behind. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from school systems is that there’s a big difference between assessments of learning vs. assessments for learning. Here’s my explanation of the difference between the two.

Assessments of learning can verify learning.

  • Examples: Year-end classroom tests for report card grades, or standardized tests to verify that students learned material.
  • Purpose: To inform others about students’ achievement.
  • Focus: Standards – have students met the standards or not?

Assessments for learning can support learning.

  • Examples: Informal classroom-based quizzes, rubrics, portfolios, and other assignments. Most teachers collect this type of data every single day as a regular part of their teaching.
  • Purpose: To inform students themselves about their progress and to help teachers in their planning.
  • Focus: Measure progress towards standards. Where are students on the “scaffold” towards standards? Scores aren’t going to be high at first.

Both types of assessments are valuable, but they’ve got different uses and purposes.

– Ann Emery